There's something about John Sandford's writing style I'm too dense to define. I think its the way he delivers a strong, character driven plot in short stacatto bursts. Those 'bursts' divide scenes into separate and unique actions, like the panels on a comic page. Sometimes they relate to the subject at hand only perfunctory, but sometimes they're so intertwined you wonder why or how they were separated in the first place.
Or something like that.
Here's all you need to know: it works. And in Stolen Prey, a Lucas Davenport mystery surrounding the brutal murder of an entire family by a drug cartel, it works very well. Sandford deserves to be mentioned among the mythic elite of the genre, alongside names like Ross McDonald, Rex Stout, and Hammett.
Book #38 of the year
The Third Gate is a forthcoming thriller by Lincoln Child, an author best known for his collaborations with Douglas Preston. The titular gate refers to the opening to the third and secret chamber of the tomb of Egypt's first pharaoh, discovered below the rot and stench of miles of swampland. Unfortunately, the curse on this tomb might be a wee bit more effective than the one's this archaeological crew is used to dismissing. Thankfully though a
Like too many thrillers the novel features scads of space devoted to the characters telling you details of the history/machinery/terminology in use, a practice I think is both lazy and prone to dating a story (ten years from now, when you pick this up second hand at a yard sale, the medical procedures will make this read like the equivalent of Nehru jackets and shag carpeting).
Still, I enjoyed it for what it is - a quick, harmless, but entertaining book. And I'll remember it forever as the book I was reading as I waited with Smiley to have his abscessed tooth pulled.
Book #39 of the year
As a brief break from book reviews let me mention that we watched One for the Money, the Katherine Heigl movie based on the popular book series by Janet Evanovich. Lisa liked it more than I did, which isn't saying much, although she did comment more than once on Heigl's strained (and inconsistent) Jersey accent. Hey, I know the books are super popular, but I didn't dig this as a novel and I sure didn't love it as a film. What a sub-par effort, and the soundtrack - yowsas! Ridiculous music playing at just the wrong time. How Heigl keeps her name in lights while creating dud after dud is beyond me.
Harry Lipkin, Private Eye is another forthcoming novel I read, this time by Barry Fantoni (release date July 10th of this year). The titular character is an 87 year old Jewish private eye still licensed and practicing in Florida. He takes the case of an elderly widow who suspects her staff of stealing personal mementos from her home. Sounds exciting, doesn't it?
Let's not mince words. The style was fine if not impressive, but the book read heavily like something constructed by design. Sure, sure, it's good, even necessary, to map out a book length work, but I got the impression he set a goal for himself - "8 pages in chapter four buckaroo" and then stuck to it, whether that meant the scene was padded or shortchanged. It all felt forced.
Worse yet, I think the main character came off as subtly racist, especially when it came to the Asian butler. Yes, an older man will carry more baggage than one from a younger generation, but then it should come across as a fault, not a source of humor.
As for the mystery . . . if you didn't see that ending coming, shoot yourself now.
I'd give this book a D, but who am I to judge? At least he got published.
Book # 40 of the year